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Using Technology to Give People with Parkinson’s Specialized Care

Dr. Ray Dorsey

Dr. Ray Dorsey is being honored as a Champion of Change in the Fight Against Parkinson's Disease.

The burden of Parkinson’s disease is increasing rapidly both domestically and globally. Over the next generation, the number of people with Parkinson’s disease will almost double. However, many individuals with Parkinson’s disease lack access to care due to distance and disability. In the U.S., over 40 percent of Medicare beneficiaries with Parkinson’s disease do not see a neurologist and those that do not are 20 percent more likely to fracture a hip, 20 percent more likely to be placed into a skilled nursing facility, and 20 percent more likely to die. To increase access to care, we are using simple video calls to connect Parkinson’s specialists directly to patients in their homes. These virtual house calls offer patients the care they need, the convenience they want, and the comfort they deserve.

With generous support from the National Parkinson Foundation, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Parkinson’s Action Network, and our technology partners, we are conducting the first national random controlled trial of telemedicine for Parkinson’s disease. In addition, with generous support from Davis Phinney and his foundation, and Drs. Michael Okun, Carlie Tanner, and Kevin Biglan, we have developed Race-PD which offers 250 individuals across the country the opportunity to connect with Parkinson’s disease specialists for free. We hope that these efforts will help remove barriers for this care model, including arcane licensing requirements and absent Medicare reimbursement. Our vision is to enable anyone anywhere with Parkinson’s disease to receive care.

We also want to enable anyone anywhere with Parkinson’s disease to participate in research. With unprecedented support from Apple, creative geniuses like the mathematician Dr. Max Little, and outstanding partners such as Sage Bionetworks and The Michael J. Fox Foundation, mPower was released on March 9, 2015. A smartphone application designed specifically for Parkinson’s disease research, mPower allows individuals with Parkinson’s disease to track their symptoms in real time, share this information with researchers, and receive immediate feedback for themselves. While not perfect, mPower provides a platform for greater future efforts, including the hope to connect more people to care.

Dr. Ray Dorsey is the David M. Levy Professor of Neurology and Director of CHET at the University of Rochester. Dr. Dorsey is helping investigate new treatments for movement disorders and improve the way care is delivered for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.